According to many of the people who attend the Learning Counsel’s Learning Leadership Symposia, the Administrator Panel Discussion is the icing on the cake, a chance for some of the area’s most distinguished administrators to let their hair down and let the ideas fly. In typical fashion, there are no rules and no censors, and the truth comes out, often gloriously so.

This year’s Orange County Panel Discussion includes Carl Fong, Chief Technology Officer, Department of Education at Orange County, Dr. David Miyashiro, Superintendent at Cajon Valley Union School District, and Jose Gonzalez, Chief Technology Officer at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

According to Jose Gonzales, two of the biggest lessons learned had to do with the uses of technology. “I think number one is the importance of connectivity, and having access to hardware and devices,” said Gonzales. “One of the good things that came out of the pandemic was that connectivity was expedited. So now everybody's got that laptop, got the connectivity. But we really need to focus on the training that should have come with it. And then the last part is that we can't forget about parents. A lot of our parents don't have access to an email. So how are we training them to stay connected so that they can check out student grades and attendance and all that other stuff and do online remote parent conferences?”

Dr. David Miyashiro came to a realization when speaking of lessons learned. “I'll share one lesson learned or maybe it is a realization,” said Dr. Miyashiro.  “I used to think that we were in the education industry. What I learned through the pandemic is we are in the service industry, an essential service to the public. And when we realized that it wasn't going to be just two or three weeks, we started weekly zooms with our parents, PTA presidents and a plus one from all 28 schools, 70 percent of whom were in poverty. The parents were crying, and they were in desperation saying, ‘I’ve got to go to work. We're going to leave our kids at home by themselves.’ And these are five-year-olds. But they didn't have an option to put food on the table. And our union leaders were on the zooms. And we opened our schools in April of 2021, one classroom at a time, 18 students at a time with the help of the Department of Health. And by June of 2020, all 28 schools were open with 7,000 students choosing for in-person learning. And we got in a fight with the California Teachers Association. The governor wasn't happy with us because it didn't fit his narrative. But our community said, ‘we need access to our schools and to care.’ And we're in the service industry. And I think that if anything were to happen again, we would find a way to continue the service.”

Panel Moderator, Chris McMurray, Chief Academic officer at the Learning Counsel News Media and Research, interjected an interesting point, “We're talking about forward movement; we're talking about evolution; we're talking about shifting practice and shifting structures. But we've been talking about this for more than 10 years. We know that this has been coming. We know that 150 years of tradition in structure for education isn't working for anyone. And yet we're still admiring the problem. And we're making incremental change. And, and that's fine. However, as we move toward that change, what is it going to take to actually get there, to make that change happen at scale?”

Carl Fong said, “The thing that I look at is, you have to involve all the key players in one place. You need to bring in legislation, because they're the one that's sitting on all the rules per se.  If their kids go to public school, why not change it? We elected you up there and you see all these problems, but you're passing all these mandates and all these rules that we can't play with, because it's different. So, you need to bring them all together. and you must bring in the companies. What are they looking for in the workforce? If we're still teaching the same old way, what are we doing? We're not competing globally. We're going to lose.”

This Administrator Panel Discussion isn’t for the timid, and it isn’t for those who don’t want to hear the truth. It is, however, a look into some of the finest minds in education, working together and discovering the way forward. This is must-see video, and may be the most valuable 22 minutes you’ll invest all year.